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Washington Senator Patty Murray introducing public health preparedness bill

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, issued a report on racial disparities and COVID-19 calling for congressional action.
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Senator Patty Murray is working with a bipartisan group to introduce legislation to address future pandemics.

COVID-19 has highlighted serious health inequities, a shaky supply chain and a lack of healthcare and public health infrastructure. U.S Senator Patty Murray is drafting legislation she says could address those challenges.

Murray says the bipartisan proposal she is introducing with several other legislators will provide both oversight and resources to address public health infrastructure gaps.

“I think it’s really important that we are ready with the supply chain, all of the issues we talk about in terms of testing, supplies, vaccines and ventilators,” she said, “making sure we have that ready, making sure we have better coordination between our agencies so we can address that, making sure we have ability to collect data, which we did not have when this pandemic started.”

Murray says a lack of good data made addressing public health inequities, such as higher death rates among people of color, and distributing vaccines, much more difficult.

She says data gathering requirements and funding to strengthen communications between agencies, will address that. In addition to funding better data collection and standards, there is funding for community health workers, and it provides money to strengthen the country’s public health workforce.

“What we have done is gone back and said how can we make sure as a country that if or when we ever go through this again, we are better prepared,” she said.

Murray says she is still gathering feedback on the bill and hopes to introduce it into a committee and move it through the legislative process as soon as possible.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.